One of the first legal victories in the medical cannabis community involves a man named Jim Wakeford. For those who are familiar with his story, today is the 19-year anniversary of Wakeford’s win in the case of Wakeford v. Canada, where on May 2, 1999, he became only the second Canadian to gain the legal right to smoke and grow his own medical cannabis.
During the 60s, Jim Wakeford ran a drug treatment facility for teens and in the 80s, a hospice for AIDS victims. In 1989, he was diagnosed with HIV. The medication used to treat his illness caused him constant nausea and took away his appetite; as a result, Wakeford turned to cannabis to help with these debilitating side effects.
At the time cannabis could only be acquired through the black market.
That’s why he enlisted the help of the lawyer Alan Young, a long time drug reform activist who also defended hemp store owner Chris Clay. Together they launched a constitutional challenge in the Ontario Court’s General Division, contending that as an AIDS patient, Wakeford’s basic rights were being violated by denying him the medical use of cannabis. “I initiated the suit against the federal government on behalf of myself and other sick Canadians who [were] being harassed, bullied, victimized, and in some cases imprisoned for using a medicinal plant,” Wakeford has said.
On September 7, 1998, Wakeford’s suit was dismissed. The judge’s ruling left the decision up to Parliament, who would have final say as to whether the law could be overturned. In May the following year, Jim Wakeford finally received the answer he’d been waiting for.
He had been granted the legal right to smoke and grow his own medical cannabis.
The medical cannabis legislative landscape has come a long way since then. To this day, Wakeford continues to be a vocal advocate for the rights of medical cannabis users.